Student Teaching During a Pandemic: 3 Lessons Learned

By Jayme Irene Hines and Kimberly J. Bohannon
SPRING 2021

Last spring, teacher candidates faced an unprecedented circumstance, many having less than a week to pivot from face-to-face to remote teaching. Candidates, cooperating teachers (CT), site supervisors, and college faculty needed to think differently about communication and supervision. Many state-level Departments of Education created specific guidelines for K–12 schools focused on remote learning (Reich et al., 2020). This information and new expectations rolled out quickly.

Candidates who were placed in the Early Childhood through Grade 6 setting in southwestern New Hampshire were allowed to continue their field placement and encouraged to support their CT with remote planning and teaching. The following discussion frames three themes identified through interviews with student teachers and feedback from cooperating professionals at this particular institution.

Lesson #1: Teacher candidates are persistent.

Teacher persistence is “a disposition manifested in the day-to-day actions of teaching” (Wheatly, 2002, p. 3). Candidates struggled to find a balance, and without traditional start and end times for the school day, realized they were working around the clock. This was not sustainable, but candidates continued to persevere. They wrote and presented lessons, created teaching videos, held virtual morning meetings, and connected with children and families over video chat, demonstrating persistence in ways they might not have been able to without this experience.

Lesson #2: Student teachers are a valuable part of the (virtual) teaching team.

Clinical practice offers candidates a “lens through which to understand the problems of practice that currently face the profession,” providing candidates and cooperating professionals opportunities to think creatively and engage in innovative practices (American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2018, p. 8). Candidates contributed to their students, grade-level teams, and schools as they piloted new technology and engagement strategies. They dove in alongside their CT to develop synchronous and asynchronous lessons, engage with technology in new ways, communicate with families, and provide social–emotional support to students.

Several candidates created classroom spaces in their homes. Meeting with students in whole groups, small groups, and individually, they continued to meet the needs of all learners. Candidates supported their teams outside of academic delivery, as well. The technological skills of many candidates were strong, with the CT turning to them for advice! Sustaining students’ social–emotional well-being was also a big part of their contribution; they led class meetings, held lunch groups, and checked in with students individually.

Lesson #3: Teacher–family relationships are vital.

The significance of family involvement in education has always been an important connection for candidates to make. Rhen et al. (2018) found that developing relationships with families or guardians is more significant in online learning. This semester, candidates were teaching alongside family members and were heavily reliant on their support. One candidate remarked that her biggest takeaway from remote learning was being able to interact in ways in which she would have not experienced in the typical setting. Some candidates even included family lesson plans, with activities to complete with family members. Others shared games and activities for families to reinforce skills previously learned in the school setting. Overall, candidates felt a great deal of positive support from families.

Concluding Thoughts

Candidates’ learning and engagement throughout remote teaching was certainly not the same as in a typical semester, but they carried on without hesitation. Candidates continued to develop their own knowledge, skills, and dispositions in ways we never would have imagined at the onset of the semester. With uncertain learning conditions for the near future, novice teachers will carry these experiences into their own classrooms, while leaving behind lessons for future candidates, faculty, and cooperating professionals.

Dr. Hines is an Assistant Professor of Education at Keene State College. She teaches coursework across Early Childhood and Elementary programs and supervises Early Childhood student teachers. Her research interests include social–emotional development of preschoolers, teacher preparation, and faculty–student relationships.

Dr. Bohannon is an Associate Professor at Keene State College. She is the Coordinator of the Elementary Education program and teaches and supervises Elementary methods courses and Student Teaching. Her research interests include P–12 partnerships and faculty–student relationships.

References

American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. (2018). A pivot toward clinical practice, its lexicon, and the renewal of educator preparation: A report of the AACTE Clinical Practice Commission. American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

Reich, J., Buttimer, C. J., Fang, A., Hillaire, G., Hirsch, K., Larke, L., Littenberg-Tobias, J., Moussapour, R., Napier, A., Thompson, M., & Slama, R. (2020). Remote learning guidance from state education agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic: A first look. https://edarxiv.org/437e2

Rhen, N., Maor, D., & McConney, A. (2018). The specific skills required of teachers who deliver K–12 distance education courses by synchronous videoconference: Implications for training and professional development. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 27(4), 417–429. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2018.1483265

Wheatly, K. (2002). Teacher persistence: A crucial disposition, with implication for teacher education. Essay in Education, 3, Article 1.

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